- Role: Game Designer, Creator
- Platform: Tabletop RPG
- Studio: Random Alien Games
- Kickstarted: September 18, 2018
- Published: April, 2019
Adventure. Investigation. Science!
Free Spacer is a contemporary science fiction tabletop roleplaying game. It leverages the newest space sciences, takes into account biotechnology, and brings the internet to the rim of the quadrant.
As a Free Spacer, you’re a crewmember on a small starship, an outsider, and a contractor. You’ll explore new worlds, investigate dangers, negotiate contracts, operate your starship, and do science!
As the Gamemaster, you have a wealth of tools at your disposal to build whole worlds and manage the machinations of sector factions in the ongoing Cold War. You’ll be able to easily run conflicts, spaceflight, fabrication projects, and other challenges, while quickly generating new locations and characters.
Play to find out how the crew gets the job done, the choice they make, the rules they break, and the length will go for their Patrons.
Welcome Aboard, Free Spacer
The principal design goal for Free Spacer was a roleplaying game that felt specifically like science fiction.
To ensure this, I concentrated on skills and specialties, while removing the popular RPG attributes. Likewise, I developed a resources system that the players would use in play to tune their gear and ship systems. Finally, I developed the Project systems, an advanced mechanic that enables the Players to do science.
The next objective, was to have a streamlined game system. The core game mechanic needed to be usable in every aspect of the game. Enabling the Players to understand the rest of the game, once they’ve grokked the core game mechanic.
To achieve this, I developed the salvo system. A system that uses two opposing dice pools with bracketed outcomes. The game packs everything needed in play into this core mechanic. First, the bracketed outcomes generate Player and Gamemaster resources, while creating a nonbinary outcome. Second, all game modifiers add dice to one of the two pools or boosts the outcome (when it is damage). Finally, all tasks and projects utilise this system.
RPGs set within complex societies or with the use of powerful technology, often have Players attempt to get others to perform tasks for them. They call the police, set up AI controlled weapons, or hire spies, but these are the fun things I want them to do. So, the third objective, was to ensure that characters have to rely on themselves in play and make their own choices.
To accomplish this, I built the use of technology, including AI, into the assumptions of all tasks. As part of the setting I made the PCs, specialist troubleshooters, commissioned as cold war operators. Likewise, I made ansible, Faster-Than-Light communications impossible, forcing the PCs to rely on themselves to make decisions. Finally, I had Players roll all the dice, putting their successes and failure in their own hands.
Sandbox games can be unwieldy, requiring the Gamemaster to do hours of prep, while still having to contend with Players going where they haven’t prepared. The fourth objective was to create a manageable sandbox with reasonable Gamemaster prep.
As part of the setting, Free Spacers are indentured contractors, required to negotiate contracts with different factions competing in a sector wide cold war. This choice, created the contract mechanic, both an in setting and at table element. In the setting, it provides the crew’s primary motivation to pursue the operation. At the table, it is a social contract between the Players about what they’ll do during play. To evolve the sandbox, create narrative hooks, and guide the Gamemaster’s prep, I created the Cold War Phase. A period of meta narrative between sessions to simulate faction competition and drive conflict. This phase is tracked on a timeline, which helps build a rich setting. Finally, to ease the burden on the Gamemaster, I focused prep on NPC and location prep. I ensured that everything you needed to know about the other characters in the game and the locations across the sector would be included on their sheets. Building encounters is not necessary in Free Spacer, as the power curve is relatively flat and everything you need to know about any situation comes from gameplay and the various easy to make NPCs.